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Judge Denies Motion to Sequester Komisarjevsky Jury

The trial for the second Cheshire home invasion defendant begins next week.

The judge for the second Cheshire home invasion trial denied a defense motion to sequester the jury for the trial, which begins Sept. 19.

The defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky, faces the death penalty for the triple homicide of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters during a violent home invasion kidnapping and robbery in July 2007.

Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue rejected the motion to sequester the jury because he said the jurors weren’t told that might happen when they were selected earlier this year and it would be unfair to them to spring it on them now.

Komisarjevsky’s defense lawyers argued that the jurors might be tainted by prejudicial news media coverage or other adverse materials if they weren’t sequestered.

Sequestering would keep the jurors separated from the public and their families during the trial. When they were selected, Judge Blue told the jurors the trial might last as long as three months, including both the guilt phase and the penalty phase.

Komisarjevsky’s co-defendant, Steven Hayes, was found guilty last fall and sentenced to die by lethal injection. His trial took about two months.

Blue will hold a pre-trial proceeding Tuesday to determine which of the 17 counts against Komisarjevsky will claim he is liable as a principal offender, which will claim he is liable as an accessory, and which will claim he is liable as both a principal and an accessory.

Prosecutors in court today said 13 of the counts would claim he is responsible as both a principal offender and an accessory.

Defense attorneys said they would file a motion claiming that Komisarjevsky should not receive the death penalty if he is found guilty only as an accessory and not as the principal offender who committed that count.

That might make a difference if the jury finds that Hayes, not Komisarjevsky, started the house fire that caused the deaths of the daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11.

Hayes admitted he strangled Hawke-Petit after raping her. Komisarjevsky claims that all he wanted to do was rob the family and the murders were all committed by Hayes.

Defense lawyer Walter Bansley III said the defense team also would file a motion to reconsider their previous motion for moving the trial venue away from New Haven.

Blue denied the first change of venue motion in February. But Bansley said statements by some of the jurors indicated that no jury from the New Haven area could decide the case solely on the evidence because of the intense news media coverage of the case.

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